Members of the pro-independence group FLNKS issued the statement a day after calling on French Overseas Territories Minister Sébastien Lecornu to postpone the vote during his visit there.
The government should prioritize the fight against the Covid pandemic in the territory, which has killed 245 people since September.
Paris accepted the New Caledonian legislature’s request to hold the consultative referendum as part of a decolonization plan, known as the Noumea Accord, agreed in 1998.
But the FLNKS statement said the government – with next year’s presidential elections in mind – insisted on moving forward with the vote to meet its obligations under the Noumea Accord.
Given the health crisis, he argued, the referendum could not be held properly.
Lecornu, during his visit, said that the health situation was “tense” but under control, and only a situation in which the epidemic degenerated could justify the postponement of the referendum.
New Caledonia is due to hold its third independence referendum on December 12, after having already twice rejected the proposal.
The Noumea Accord ended a deadly conflict between the predominantly pro-independence Kanak indigenous population and the descendants of European settlers.
It allowed up to three independence votes by 2022 at the behest of at least a third of the local legislature.
In a first referendum in 2018, 57% voted to keep France. In the second, in October 2020, this share fell to 53%.
An archipelago of about 270,000 inhabitants located about 2,000 kilometers (1,250) miles east of Australia, New Caledonia has been French territory since 1853.
© 2021 AFP